I recently did this writing exercise under the tutelage of Kathi Appelt at WIFYR's summer conference. It inspired a piece of writing that surprised and delighted me, and that may not have come to me in any other way. It certainly pulled me out of my little writer's funk and forced me to write in a new way.
Here's what you do:
Step One: Sketch. Think of a place you know well. Now sketch it. It doesn't matter what your sketching looks like (trees for trees, x's for trees, no one's judging), but try to include as much detail about the location as possible. For instance, if you choose your childhood backyard, make sure to draw every corner, every tree, and every spot that is memorable at all.
Step Two: List. Write each corner and crevice that you have drawn in your picture at the top of the paper so that the places form columns. Under each heading, list specific memories that happened in that location. List anything that comes to mind, whether it be the time you fell out of the tallest tree, or the way the tomatoes in the garden used to smell, or the place where you had "zucchini stands" as a child (and made about $2 because you lived on a back road that no one ever drove down).
Step Three: Circle. Circle one to three of the words, snippets, or memories. The ones that jump out and grab you. Don't think too hard about it.
Step Four: Write. The fun part. Because there are really no rules here. Just write something based on what you circled. It may be fact. It may be fiction. It may be a little of both. But it will definitely be coming from a very real place inside of YOU, as all good writing should. Write for at least five minutes, but if you can manage it, write for longer, for as long as your fingers keep keep scribbling. And if you want, go back and edit. And maybe, just maybe, as you do this exercise, and do it again (and again) some story seeds will fall out. And it's possible that they may be your best seeds yet.
So what are you waiting for?! Grab a paper and pencil and....GO!
This post was written by Maria Oka, mom of three girls and wife of one handsome fella. Maria reads and writes from Southern California.
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